Know that learning is a lifetime pursuit. Find your superpower. Celebrate diversity.  Be guided by a strong moral compass. Seize opportunity every day. Strive to make a difference.

These themes permeated the speeches of some of the dignitaries and the student valedictorian on University Canada West’s (UCW’s) convocation platform on Friday, July 15 at Vancouver’s Italian Cultural Centre.

Catherine Vertesi, vice-chair of UCW’s Board of GovernorsArthur Coren, UCW president; Tom Lavin, UCW 2016 honorary degree recipient and Jad Debai, UCW 2016 student valedictorian were among the dignitaries addressing this year’s convocation attendees.

Their words of inspiration were geared towards motivating a truly global group of graduands to make a difference in their part of the world, and ultimately to contribute to the betterment of our world collectively.

Twenty of UCW’s 30 graduands this year, many of them accompanied by family members and friends, attended the annual celebration of students’ graduation from UCW’s business-oriented degree programs.

Ten of the graduands at the ceremony were from Canada, specifically the provinces of British Columbia, Quebec, Alberta, Ontario and Manitoba. Other attending graduands hailed from China, India, Mexico, Pakistan, Russia and South Korea.

With their eyes trained on the speakers, the fledgling alumni absorbed a wealth of wisdom to take home along with their soon-to-be conferred degrees. Coren and Vertesi warmly congratulated each of them as they crossed the convocation platform.

Governor Vertesi advised them to carry their celebration of their diverse backgrounds in UCW classrooms into the outside world where they will develop careers in a globalized world where diversity reigns. She urged them to use their business education and sense of ethics cultivated at UCW to leverage global respect.

You will interact directly and indirectly with customers, suppliers and even neighbors who are from all over the world,” said Vertesi. “But developing economic links alone doesn’t make the world a safer place. You need to keep your eye on welcoming everyone in all that you do.

President Coren noted that in obtaining a higher education through UCW the graduands had achieved a milestone that many in today’s world will never enjoy. However, he cautioned them to not sit back on their laurels because the true measure of what they achieve in life will be based ultimately on their ability to take risks in honing their skills.

I have every confidence this will be the class that reaches its full potential,” said Coren. “It doesn’t matter who you were or what you had when you came to UCW. You now have the best preparation that a BC university can give. But the true measure of your success will be how well you seize opportunities and make a difference.

Tom Lavin, a legendary Canadian blues musician, pioneering consultant for venture capitalists and UCW’s 2016 honorary degree recipient, drove home the message that lifelong learning will determine graduands’ success in today’s world.

After recounting his innumerable career transitions Lavin noted: “My point here is not to impress you with what I have worked at. It is to share with you how opportunities constantly arise as you pursue any given course.  It’s been said that life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.  Of prime importance is that you realize that learning doesn’t end with your graduation; it begins.”

Lavin generously shared with graduands the many learning tools that have helped him to become a consummate career shifter. They included the following: “Keep your eyes open…You never know when something or someone valuable will appear…Learn how to learn. Only by pursuing learning habits and strategies that are global will you be able to keep pace.

Jad Debai, UCW’s 2016 student valedictorian, fittingly delivered the last word to graduands, as he—a Palestinian raised in Saudi Arabia before becoming a Canadian citizen—exemplifies what previous speakers said.

The Vancouver resident is pursuing a Master of Business Administration degree at UCW on the heels of having graduated this summer with a UCW Bachelor of Commerce degree. Debai is now a self-confessed lifelong learner, dedicated to always improving what he believes are his innate talents.

I used to think that being a student was about memorizing, taking exams and that’s it,” said Debai. “But after being at UCW I realized that being a student is about finding your passion and nourishing it through creating and excelling. It’s about finding your superpower and mastering it, and by superpower I don’t mean what Superman or Spiderman have. I mean the unique quality every person has, the unique quality that he or she can do and enjoy better than anyone else. This unique trait is their superpower.  It allows them to add value to their life and future workplace.

The following are links to Lavin’s and Debai’s full speeches.

Read Tom Lavin’s speech

Read Jad Debai’s speech

UCW is part of the Global University Systems (GUS) international network of higher-education institutions headquartered in the Netherlands. With institutions and affiliates across the UK, Canada, Germany and Singapore the group educates more than 50,000 students from 160 different nationalities.

UCW delivers programs that provide students with the applied and theoretical basis for success in the workplace and future academic endeavors. Established in 2004 by David Strong, former University of Victoria president, UCW offers quality education with courses that transfer broadly into the public education system. Courses are offered at UCW’s downtown Vancouver campus and online. For more information visit

Carol Thorbes, Communications/Media Relations

1-604-915-9607, extension 2227, [email protected], (email best)